Legislative leaders authorize Hill investigation

2013-07-13T08:20:00Z 2013-08-07T08:32:14Z Legislative leaders authorize Hill investigationThe Associated Press The Associated Press
July 13, 2013 8:20 am  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming House will begin an unprecedented investigation of schools Superintendent Cindy Hill's administration of the state Education Department.

The Legislature's Management Council unanimously voted Friday to allow House Speaker Tom Lubnau to empanel a special investigative committee, which could recommend impeachment proceedings against Hill depending on its findings.

The Management Council oversees legislative matters when lawmakers are not in session and its 13 members include the top leaders in both chambers.

Lubnau, R-Gillette, said he doesn't have a timetable for forming the committee.

Hill said she will cooperate, but also indicated she will not back down.

"I'm going to go the distance," she vowed outside the committee room after the vote.

Lubnau, who is vice chairman of the Management Council, made the request for a special committee after an inquiry reported possible misuse of federal funding while Hill ran the Education Department.

However, the inquiry made no conclusions or recommendations and issued a confidential report that has not been shared with lawmakers.

Lubnau said the main purpose of the special committee would be to determine whether anything improper occurred under Hill's administration of the department, which oversees a budget of about $1 billion a year and some 150 employees.

Hill has denied any wrongdoing and says she is a victim of a political witch hunt.

"I've not violated any law. I've not violated any policy. And I've not misused any funds," she said Friday.

Lubnau, who is vice chairman of the Management Council, made the request for a special committee after an inquiry reported possible misuse of federal funding while Hill ran the Education Department. However, the inquiry made no conclusions or recommendations, and Lubnau said the main purpose of the special committee would be to determine whether anything improper occurred under Hill's administration.

Hill has denied any wrongdoing and says she is a victim of a political witch hunt.

While Lubnau was given discretion by the Management Council to appoint the investigative committee, he has said previously that he favors assigning the task to the House Rules and Procedures Committee, which is made up of 13 House members, including most of the majority and minority leadership.

If the special committee finds evidence of impeachable offenses, the entire House would call itself into special session and begin impeachment proceedings against Hill.

Under the Wyoming Constitution, the House is responsible for impeaching any elected official, while the state Senate conducts a trial if the House approves impeachment.

Hill, a Republican who has announced that she will run for governor in 2014, was elected superintendent in 2010 and took office in January 2011.

This past winter, the GOP-controlled Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead, also a Republican, enacted a law that removed her as head of the Education Department and replaced her with a director appointed by the governor.

The superintendent remains a statewide elected official with reduced powers and duties. Hill is challenging the law in a lawsuit.

During Friday's meeting, the Management Council heard testimony from Hill and three others that the investigation was a waste of time and money.

Hill also voiced concern for her due process rights and listed a litany of legal demands, including legal representation being provided to her by the state attorney general's office.

Lubnau said Hill was confusing the legislative process with the legal process.

"This isn't a judicial process, this is a political process," he said, noting Hill will be able to testify and present documents to the special committee.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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